Managing an Unpopular Stance: the Boston Bar Assoc. & the Bomber Trial

Kerry Crisley, Director of Communications, Boston Bar Association

On April 15, 2013, the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon devastated and stunned the city of Boston. Two years later, Boston—and to a lesser extent the nation—was fixated on the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two men accused of carrying out the heinous act.
The Boston Bar Association (BBA), publicly anti-death penalty for more than 40 years, had to balance advocating for a position it had long held and respecting the concerns of those—BBA members among them—who did not agree with it.
There will be times in most professional settings when the position your brand takes isn’t a popular one. The right messages, delivered respectfully, can help maintain a productive relationship between your brand or organization and its followers, members, customers or clients.
Deciding If, When and How to Go Public
Communicating your position publicly may not necessarily be a given; there is nothing wrong with pausing to ask the question: Should we make our position known now? In considering the answer to this first—and important—question, it helps to put it in the following context: What does your position add to the public discourse? Are you able to clear up misconceptions or offer insights not currently being discussed? Are people expecting you to speak up?
This is not a decision that can or should be made in a vacuum. Seek input from key departments in the company or organization.
In the course of these conversations, you may find that staff has confidence in the position, but fears backlash from other stakeholders, including the public.


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